Posts Tagged As: Louisiana

Texas Leads 13-State Lawsuit Against Obama’s Transgender Bathroom Directive

Jim Burroway

July 7th, 2016

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a coalition of thirteen states in a lawsuit filed against the Obama administration. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against directives from the Justice Department and the Education Department which warn that Title IX funding may be withheld from school districts and colleges that discriminate against transgender students. The particular point of contention among conservatives is whether schools can be compelled to make restrooms and changing rooms available to transgender students according to their gender identity:

The coalition, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, has already filed suit against the Obama administration to seek a permanent block of the directive. Wednesday’s request, if approved, would affect not just these states but public schools across the country.

The states filed the case in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas. Harrold Independent School District, just northwest of Wichita Falls, is the official plaintiff on behalf of Texas, but most of the attention in the Lone Star State has fallen on the Fort Worth Independent School District.

There, the superintendent incurred the wrath of Paxton, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other Republican leaders for setting local rules that would allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

Last week, Paxton issued a nonbinding opinion that the new guidelines for transgender students violate state law by relegating “parents to a subordinate status” in being informed about their children. He also said Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner illegally enforced the rules without the school board’s input.

Scribner countered that the school district’s guidelines for transgender students had been approved by the district five years ago, long before the current controversy.

The thirteen states joining the lawsuit are: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

Jackass Jindal

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2015

bobby-jindalYeah, I’m losing my reserve. So sue me.

Texas isn’t the only state trying to throw up roadblocks to marriage equality. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal may have a state to run, but more importantly to him he has a presidential campaign going on as well. And nothing is a better invitation to grandstanding than that. The Supreme Court may have spoken, but Jindal says he’s appealing to a lower authority:

“Current state law is still in effect until the courts order us otherwise,” said Mike Reed, Jindal’s spokesman in the governor’s office.

…There is not yet a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages for same-sex couples in Louisiana,” (Attorney General Buddy) Caldwell said in a written statement.

The Jindal administration has said Louisiana’s state government won’t recognize gay marriage until a lower court rules on the issue.  The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has taken up a gay marriage case, but was waiting on the Supreme Court ruling before moving forward with it. The Jindal administration is now delaying gay marriage in Louisiana until this appeals court decision is issued.

So, yeah, this is his name from now on. Attorneys for same-sex couples have already filed a motion seeking enforcement of the Supreme Court’s decision. Jindal was in full campaign mode just moments after the Court’s decision was announced:

The Supreme Court decision today conveniently and not surprisingly follows public opinion polls, and tramples on states’ rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution.  Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that.

This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty.

The government should not force those who have sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage to participate in these ceremonies. That would be a clear violation of America’s long held commitment to religious liberty as protected in the First Amendment.

I will never stop fighting for religious liberty and I hope our leaders in D.C. join me.

 

Fifth Circuit looks promising

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2015

Today the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing argument on three marriage equality cases, separately, one from each of Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. First in line was Robicheaux vs Caldwell, the case from Louisiana.

The Fifth Circuit panel consists of two Reagan appointees (Jerry Smith and Patrick Higginbotham) and an Obama appointee (James Graves). It was known, going in, that Smith was not sympathetic with the notion that gay people hold the same constitutional rights as heterosexuals and that Graves favored equality. The wild card was Higginbotham.

We cannot, of course, know the outcome until it is determined and announced. However observers are reporting good news from the Louisiana hearing. Higginbotham joined Graves in expressing skepticism towards the arguments presented by the state and those who were there are predicting victory.

UPDATE: the oral arguments have been made available here

Meanwhile down in Louisiana

Timothy Kincaid

June 25th, 2014

Today Judge Martin Feldman (a Reagan appointee) was expected to rule on whether same-sex marriages conducted in other states should be recognized by the state of Louisiana. He did not. Rather, he said that he wanted to determine whether the state could ban same-sex marriages at all. (nola)

After hearing more than an hour of argument, only on the question of whether Louisiana must recognize same-sex marriages from other states, Feldman told attorneys and a packed courtroom he wants to address the pending legal questions in one ruling, rather than decide the disputes in a “piecemeal” fashion. That means attorneys must file more legal briefs with the court during the next month. Feldman might hear oral arguments.

And Then There’s Louisiana

Jim Burroway

April 15th, 2014

If you ever need proof that Louisiana is the Louisiana of the American South, the Louisiana House of Representatives will always be happy to oblige. Today, the House defeated a bill that would remove the state’s sodomy law from the books. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling that all such laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable, the Louisiana House voted 27-67 to keep the law anyway.

Three Republicans — Reps. Franklin Foil (Baton Rouge), Lowell Hazel (Pineville), Nancy Landry (Lafayette) — crossed party lines to support repealing the unconstitutional law. Eleven Dems — that’s almost a quarter of the Democratic caucus — joined much of the rest of the GOP Caucus to keep it. They were Reps. John “Andy” Anders (Vidalia), James Armes (Leeville), Michael Danahay (Sulpher), Jerry Gisclair (Larose), Mickey Guillory (Eunice), Dorothy Sue Hill (Dry Creek), Robert Johnson (Marksville), Sam Jones (Franklin), Bernard DeBas (Ville Blatte), Eugene Reynolds (Minden), and Harold Richie (Bogalusa). Independent Jerome Richard (Thibidaux) also voted to keep the ban. Three Republicans and eight Democrats ducked the vote altogether, which means that only 56% of Democrats supported the law’s repeal.

Last summer, the Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish engaged in a classic 1950’s-style entrapment campaign in which deputies propositioned men in a public park to go back to their homes for “some drinks and some fun.” Men who agreed to private, consensual sex were then arrested and charged with Louisiana’s unconstitutional “crimes against nature” law. None of the men arrested proposed sex in public places or any other illegal activity. Once the illegal entrapment campaign came to light, the sheriff’s office responded that they were merely enforcing the law that was still on Louisiana’s books, and claimed that they didn’t know that the law had been struck down in 2003.

Also, more proof: the same House is prepared to consider another bill that will make the Bible the official book of Louisiana.

Transwoman Dares City Councilman to Cast the First Stone

Jim Burroway

January 18th, 2014

And councilman Rob Webb blinks:

 

States Defy Pentagon Order Requiring Equal Treatment for Guard Members

Jim Burroway

November 4th, 2013

Several GOP-led states have vowed to resist Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order requiring National Guard to issue ID cards to spouses of Guard members who are in same-sex marriages. Those ID cards are critical for accessing spousal benefits. According to Reuters:

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, the Republican head of the National Governors Association, called on President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to “stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda,” her spokesman, Alex Weintz, said in a statement on Friday.

“The president has made it clear he supports gay marriage. He has the legal authority to order federal agencies to recognize gay marriages. He does not have the legal authority to force state agencies to do so, or to unilaterally rewrite state laws or state constitutions,” Weintz said.

Josh Havens, a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, said, “Texas Military Forces is a state agency, and as such is obligated to adhere to the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state which clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman.”

Nine states were initially identified as refusing to issue identity cards to same-sex spouses: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and West Virginia. Reuters reports, “Indiana notified the Pentagon on Friday it had begun issuing the cards after a month-long review, a move defense officials said they welcomed.”

Louisiana has also confirmed that they will also defy Sec. Hagel’s order, while Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she is exploring her legal options. Georgia’s National Guard has said it will ignore Hagel’s order.

Defense Secretary Orders State National Guards To Treat Gay Couples Equally

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2013

Since the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last June, the Defense Department has been rushing to implement policies designed to treat legally wedded same-sex couples equally with married couples generally. But several states have refused to issue Defense Department ID cards to same-sex spouses of National Guard members. Those states include Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, has announced that he is putting a stop to such discriminatory practices:

“Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.”

A senior defense official told the Washington Blade that the Pentagon has some critical leverage to deploy against recalcitrant states:

“These are federal ID cards paid for with federal funding to provide federally mandated benefits,” the official said. “I’m not going to speculate on our legal options.”

It’s Still 1952 In East Baton Rouge (Updated)

Jim Burroway

July 29th, 2013

That was the year that Dale Jennings, a co-founder of the Mattachine Society, was arrested in his own home for allegedly soliciting an undercover police officer for immoral purposes. But unlike nearly everyone else who was arrested for trumped up charges regardless of whether the intended sexual acts were between consenting adults in the privacy of their own home, Jennings fought the charges and won. Since then, sodomy laws have been declared unconstitutional and the legal basis for prosecuting consenting adults in their own homes has been absent in all fifty states and territories since 2003, when the Supreme Court declared those laws unconstitutional.

But the sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, is still partying like it’s 1952:

As the two men moved their chat to a picnic table, the deputy propositioned his target with “some drinks and some fun” back at his place, later inquiring whether the man had any condoms, according to court records. After following the deputy to a nearby apartment, the man was handcuffed and booked into Parish Prison on a single count of attempted crime against nature.

There had been no sex-for-money deal between the two. The men did not agree to have sex in the park, a public place. And the count against the man was based on a part of Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court a decade ago.

The July 18 arrest is among at least a dozen cases since 2011 in which a Sheriff’s Office task force used the unenforceable law to ensnare men who merely discussed or agreed to have consensual sex with an undercover agent, an investigation by The Advocate has found.

The District Attorney refused to prosecute the cases because no laws were broken. But that doesn’t change the fact that at least a dozen men were arrested, read their rights, handcuffed, taken in, booked, fingerprinted, and posted bond. The dozen arrests were made by the Sheriff’s Special Community Anti-Crime Team, which also investigates prostitution and child predators. The task force took advantage of the fact that most of the men arrested were older and had not come out to their families.

After news of the illegal sting operation broke in the Baton Rouge Metro councilman John Delgado sent an email to Sheriff Sid Gautreaux demanding an explanation and apology. The Sheriff’s office responded in a way to make matters worse by equating private, consensual adult activity with public masturbation:

“The Sheriff’s Office has not, nor will it ever, set out with the intent to target or embarrass any part of our law-abiding community,” the Sheriff’s Office statement says.

“We will consult with others in the legislative and judicial branches to see what can be done to remove this law from the criminal code that each deputy receives and to also find alternative ways to deter sexual and lewd activity from our parks,” the statement says.

Delgado’s email says the Sheriff’s Office’s Sunday statement sensationalizes the matter by using terms like “lewd conduct” and “public masturbation” and suggesting that children were present during the arrests.

“The newspaper article makes it quite clear that nothing of the sort occurred in these 12 arrests,” Delgado says. “These men were arrested even though they were innocent of any crime.”

The sheriff’s office claimed that they were merely enforcing the law that was still on Louisiana’s books, and didn’t know that the law had been struck down in 2003: “To our knowledge, the Sheriff’s office was never contacted or told that the law was not enforceable or prosecutable,” the statement says. The Sheriff’s office says they will meet with District Attorney Hillar Moore III to get a lesson on constitutional law. Equality Louisiana also says that the department will also meet with members of the LGBT advocacy group.

Update: Think Progress’ report quoted from the Original Sheriff’s office statement posted on Facebook. That statement has since been removed. The original statement read, in part:

The Sheriff’s Office has not, nor will it ever, set out with the intent to target or embarrass any part of our law-abiding community. Our goal is to Protect and Serve the public. When we receive calls from the public about lewd activity near our children, we have to respond. Our park operations, conducted at the specific request of the BREC Park’s Ranger, were an attempt to deter or stop lewd activity occurring in the park near children. The deputies in the cases were acting in good faith using a statute that was still on the books of the Louisiana criminal code. […]

We want to reiterate our intent in these cases. It was NEVER to target a certain segment of our population. It was only in response to parents, park officials and members of the public concerned that our parks were not safe. When we receive reports of public masturbation, sex and other lewd activity in a park where children are playing, me MUST take these concerns seriously. Our intent was honorable, our approach, however, is something we must evaluate and change. The Sheriff’s Office is not concerned with what consenting adults do in private residences. We are concerned with what is going on in public, especially a public place frequented by children.

The new statement now reads:

The Sheriff’s office apologizes that the way theseinvestigations were handled made it appear that we weretargeting the gay community. That was not our intent. TheSheriff’s Office also apologizes to anyone that wasunintentionally harmed or offended by the actions of our investigations. While sections of La. R.S. 14:89, Crimes Against Nature, have not been removed from the Louisianalaw code, they have been deemed unenforceable andunconstitutional. The Sheriff’s Office will not use theseunconstitutional sections of the law in future cases. We arecommitted to working with all branches of our government,as well as the LGBT community, to find acceptable ways tokeep our community safe.

Yet again, French Quarter spared

Timothy Kincaid

August 30th, 2012

If God keeps sending hurricanes to punish Teh Gheys for Southern Decadence, he has an odd way of administering them. (USA Today)

New Orleans’ historic French Quarter appeared to have dodged the worst of Isaac. Downed tree limbs, minor flooding at intersections and a brief electrical outage overnight were the main problems confronting the residents who stayed.

“Honestly, man, it’s just been rain,” said Huggington “Huggy” Behr, manager of Flanagan’s Pub, which remained open through the night. “To us, we’ve seen the worst, so it’s business as usual.”

New Orleans businesses fretted that the lingering storm would hamper this weekend’s three-day Southern Decadence gay celebration, which organizers say draws up to 100,000 visitors. Round-the-clock activities are scheduled, mostly around the dozen French Quarter bars and adjoining neighborhood.

Masturbating phobe apologizes for anti-gay rants

Timothy Kincaid

March 2nd, 2011

There’s something about being caught engaged in sexual improprieties that brings about remorse. Perhaps it is true regret or perhaps it is a desire to look less hypocritical, but it does seem to happen.

And Grant Storms, the New Orleans opponent to Southern Decadence who was caught watching kiddies with his hands in his pants, is no exception. (BeliefNet)

Storms, a self-described “Christian patriot” who has protested New Orleans’ annual Southern Decadence gay pride festival, also apologized to those he had maligned, saying, “I was very mean-spirited at times and I apologize.”

Storms also expressed remorse for his protests at the gay festival, which he has said turns the French Quarter into Sodom and Gomorrah.

“When I look back, there’s a lot of things I would have done differently. I was so proudful. I was very arrogant,” he said, adding later, “I’ll fess up to my shortcomings, and whatever they say against me, they can say it. They have every right now to say it.”

Well, I guess it is a step in the right direction.

Anti-Gay Preacher Arrested for Public Masturbation While Watching Children At a Playground

Jim Burroway

February 28th, 2011

Grant Storms, a locally famous New Orleans preacher who has loudly protesting the annual Southern Decadence festival, is in a bit of a pickle:

Storms told deputies that he was merely having lunch at Lafreniere Park, 3000 Downs Blvd., in his van when he decided to relieve himself using a bottle instead of using the restroom, an incident report said. But two witnesses said they saw Storms through the open windows of his van masturbating himself while watching children on the playground, the report said.

Bond for Storms was set at $5,000, but he was released from jail due to overcrowding.

In 2003, Storms tried to organize a counter-parade during that year’s Southern Decadence, which is held every year on Labor Day in the French Quarter. The effort backfired when business owners, annoyed by his loud bullhorn, convinced the city council to ban bullhorns and other amplified devices during protests. Storms’s counter-protest was intended to warn the general public about rampant public sex in the French Quarter. Not everyone saw that as a reason to stay away. One bar owner in 2003 responded, “This is basically a gay Mardi Gras. Thank you for the exposure is what I’m going to stay. Instead of 110,000 people, we’ll have 210,000 people.”

Storms faces a fine of between $1000 and $2500 or a jail sentence of between six months and two years. I wonder if his left hand knew what his right hand was doing…

The Nation: LGBT Youth Face Violence Behind Bars

Jim Burroway

July 12th, 2010

Kids screw up. But in some cases, they’re thrown into situations that very few mature adults can handle effectively, let alone adolescents. Sometimes those situations mean they land in our juvenile justice systemm which is intended to both punish and rehabilitate youths who break the law. But as in adult prisons, juvenile detentions centers are also very violent and dangerous places, particularly for those who happen to be gay or transgender:

“I was scared to sleep at night because I didn’t know if I was going to wake up in the morning,” writes one incarcerated youth at Louisiana’s Swanson Center for Youth. One 15-year-old who was shuttled back and forth from group homes and secure facilities in Shreveport, New Orleans and Baton Rouge reports that staff did nothing when he reported a rape because he “reported it too late,” that he was “whipped with a clothes hanger” for rule violations and that the abuse from staff and other youth was so bad that he tried to kill himself. Two of Krystal’s gay friends were raped in prison by other youths. One of them was assaulted so viciously that the injuries required internal stitches. Staff put Krystal’s other friend in isolation to protect him from further assault.

Krystal [a transgender woman who identified as a male when she entered Louisiana’s system at the age of twelve] reports that she was physically attacked by other youth nearly every day that she was in the system. Shortly after arriving, Krystal found her shoes in the trash, covered in urine and spit. Frequently, youths attacked Krystal for refusing to perform sex acts. Other queer youth in the facility had similar experiences. “We’re all in the same category,” she says. And there was nowhere to hide. “It was basically like a big dorm—one big room where everybody sleeps, that’s what’s going on,” Krystal says. “Sometimes you would get sent to lockdown for fighting back, but there’s nothing else you can do.” Krystal reported the abuse to staff, but “they would just wait till things happened. Sometimes the staff would tell the other youth to stop. Sometimes they wouldn’t.”

Daniel Redman, who wrote this story in last months’s The Nation, is a Law Project Fellow for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. He reports that according to U.S justice department statistics, LGBT youth are twelve times more likely to be sexually assaulted by fellow inmates than straight youth. To compound the problem, many of these LGBT youths turned to crime to support themselves after they were kicked out of their homes for being gay or transgender. Redman uncovered some more statistics:

LGBT youth make up 15 percent of the prison population. Indeed, one-quarter of all LGBT youth are kicked out of their homes or run away. Compared to their heterosexual peers, incarcerated LGBT youth are twice as likely to report abuse at the hands of family members, homelessness or state-ordered foster placement. A shocking estimated 20-40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

Redman also discovered that the ex-gay movement has a hand in this. Given the tragedies behind this, my only complaint is that his report is too short. I hope Redman will be able to find an editorial outlet that will allow him to expand on what he learned.

This is an issue that too few LGBT advocates have been willing to touch. Advocating for LGBT youth in prison, I guess, leads one to be exposed to the charge of being soft on crime. Standing up for these kids can be touchy, unfortunately. Yet who can deny that this story illustrates the worst consequences of homophobic violence and rejection, often beginning in the very homes of these youth?

Sen. Vitter Won’t Comment on JP’s Denial of Interracial Marriage

Jim Burroway

October 21st, 2009

Sen. David Vitter (Ted Jackson, New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Sen. David Vitter (Ted Jackson, New Orleans Times-Picayune)

You’d think that denouncing the Louisiana Justice of the Peace who refused to marry an interracial couple would be the easiest thing in the world to do.  The easiest — even in Louisiana, where virtually every other major elected public official has done so. I mean after all, Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruling has made interracial marriages legal in all fifty states — that includes Louisiana — for 42 years now. This isn’t controversial anymore, right?

Well it may not be for everyone else on the planet, but Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) isn’t ready to be pinned down. He not only won’t go on the record, and he can’t believe that every other major Louisiana elected official has. I guess he wants to keep his options open. You know, wait and see which way the wind blows:

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) both want JP Keith Bardwell out, and Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess has called for his resignation. Vitter, on the other hand, smiles and nervously ducks inside an elevator.

Louisiana Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License

Jim Burroway

October 15th, 2009

Good lord, what century is this?

A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

Neither Bardwell nor the couple immediately returned phone calls from The Associated Press. But Bardwell told the Daily Star of Hammond that he was not a racist. “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house,” Bardwell said. “My main concern is for the children.”

…If he does an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.

How’s that for a slippery slope?

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